tv [untitled] CSPAN June 21, 2009 5:30am-6:00am EDT
>> thank you again, rabbi, for the blessing. and thank you all again for joining us on such a wonderful and special occasion celebrate ing the contributions of al from not only to this great organization but to the larger political body. i was on the phone earlier today before coming over and was chatting with someone i'm working on a project with. and i shared that i was in washington largely for this evening's event. he and i are about the same age. i turned 39 a month ago, and i shared with him, i remember graduating from college in 1992
and working for my father's re-election campaign to congress back in memphis and how we were so excited that this arkansas governor and hthis tennessee senator would be the nominees for the party. i shared with the fella i was talking to on the phone and he agreed, it was the first time since i was 6 years old that a democrat had -- that a democrat was poised to win the white house where i felt good about it. in 1980, 1984 and 1988 was excited about our candidates. i remember being excited in 1984 about jesse jackson's candidacy as a 14-year-old freshman. in 1988 by his candidacy again and governor dukakis. but there was something magical about bill clinton in 1992. i went on to tell the guy there was a guy who helped lay the foundation for so much of this.
a young man we noticed in 1984 and 1985 that middle class america and asian america was not being represented, their concerns were not being dressed, and they were -- addressed. i thought back on the great leaders of this organization, from chuck robb, to dick gephardt, to bruise babbitabbit. john jones. obviously to the great chairman in 1990 and 1991. i thought about the great ag secreta secretary. the great leader in the senator joe lieberman. the honor reliable joe long. i thought about the honorable roy romer. i thought about ellen tauscher and the great senator from indiana. i thought about my dear friend and vice chairman and partner in
chairing this organization, the great then governor and senator now and my immediate prepared ses -- predecessor. for we have all been a part of something very special because largely if not mainly because of the courage, determination and tenacity of a little fellow back then who is now a little fellow again whom you will see later in al from. tonight's dinner is special not only for those of us in this room but for politicians and those who have benefited from new policies all across this country and i daresay the world. what al did more for our party and more for the body politic and what more he did for the larger body politic, he helped make a huge wing of our party not only believers in the future but shapers and no longer
chasers of the future activi. it is his blueprint that he started and leaves for bruce and the rest of us to take to new levels and new heights which has made it possible for so many democrats across the south, midwest, southeast and northwest, midwest and even the northea northeast, to win and win ons that would allow republics, moderates and democrats to see fit to vote. al, i thank you because you made it easier for me in 1996 to love my god, to love my gun, to feel strongly about taxes being lowered and businesses creating jobs and at the same time believing government had a responsibility to equip people with the tools to compete and win in a new america and world. for all of us we owe you gratitude for all the perform success and personal friendship that we enjoy with you. but as someone who loves politics and making of public
policy i daresay there are not many people in this city and many people around this country who have done more to advance the good in public policy making, done more to advance and find good people to serve in politics, and are not many people who have sacrificed more as ginger and all of us know that you have. for that this night is not only for you but this night is to celebrate all the young politicians, middle aimed politicians -- middle aged politicians, even a few older ones that you helped pave the way for. it gives me great pride to introduce my partner, bruce reed. >> thank you so much, congressman ford, for your fine words and great work. to president clinton, who
changed our party and our current and made new democrats proud, to secretary assemble billous a bill o bi-- assemble bi all the other former chairs to vice chair tom carper and a dozen others who are here, the many house members and scores of state and local officials here tonight, thank you. and thanks to all of you from far and near who have come here tonig tonight. this is an amazing crowd. all these years al from has made a name for himself as one of the all-time great troublemakers. it is going to ruin his reputation forever when the world finds out he has this many friends. tonight it saddens me to tell my favorite joke one last time. you see, i was born with the ultimate washington curse.
i look like ralph reed and i think like al from. but i always say it could be worse. it could have been the other way around. the truth is, thinking like al from has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime. and while luckily i'm the only one cursed to look like ralph reed, the world is a vastly better place because over the years so many democrats in this room, in this town and in this country have come to think lake al from. [applause] we take it for granted but we should not forget just how hard it was to try to breathe new life into an old party when al and they got started. in the 1980's congresswoman pat
schroder used to tell audiences democrats need to do three things to win back the white house. unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. well, al from knew. he understood that to lead a party out of the political wilderness would take a different kind of democrat. today we have a different kind of democratic party because of what al from and that great new democratic president bill clinton accomplished. if you have front what the political wilderness waslike in those days, just take a look across the aisle at the sad state of today's republican party. [applause] >> now we can't feel too bad. after all, they did plenty to earn it. but it is still a sorry sight. republicans have lost back-to-back landslides in 2006 and 2008. they don't have the courage to challenge old orthodoxies and interest groups. they would rather hold on to old
approaches that don't work, thnt embrace new ideas. they cling to the same old approaches that are sure to shrink their party faster. my fellow democrats, we have been there and al from, bill clinton and all of you are a big reason we decided long ago to be done with all of that. [applause] >> today the democratic party is stronger, more united and more determined than ever. we are eager to help push the obama administration's reform agenda and thrilled to have a democrat in the white house again so the other party can explore that wilderness for a long time to come. [applause] >> tomorrow and in the days and months ahead we will say more about the important work that
lies ahead for the d.l.c. to quote tony blair, our motto is a lot done, a lot still to do, from education reform, to health reform to helping president obama usher in a new responsibility era. we have a new wave of ideas to put forward and new generation of new democrats to groom, like our d.l.c. fellow rachel storch who you will hear from. and we know the battle for reform is never finished. the moment we stop challenging ourselves and each other to take on tough issues we hand the other side an opening and miss our chance to prove to the american people we will never stop fighting for real change. but tonight is a chance to remember how we got here and to pay tribute to the great insurgency al from started which modernized progressive government, made the world safe for new democrats and helped our
party find the road to victory out of the agony of defeat. this morning journalist david paul kume wrote a tribute called "al from won." but al would be the first it tell you that what really matters is democrats won, and, more important, the country won. it takes courage to take a party in a country but from reforming welfare to lashing crime, to turning the economy around and inspiring national service, the progress we have won has been its own best reward. like any great rebel, al has been blessed with many co-conspirators. from will marshall, who was present at the creation and has poured his soul into what we stand for. [applause] >> to jennifer callahan, who has stayed with al to this day.
[applause] >> we owe a special thanks to the generous sponsors and those that worked so hard to pull off this tonight. and this room is filled with people who helped make appear's vision come true. people who came brimming with ideas, staffers who kept the organization at the cutting edge. supporters who offered resources and ideas even when it wasn't easy or popular to do so. and elected officials who put their careers on the line for reform. on behalf of all of those co-conspirators i want to thank appear for the lessons he taught us he showed us that ideas matter and obstacles don't. he is a thinner man than he was back then but our party is stronger because of his thick skin. he showed us that orthodoxy is a
one-way ticket to the wilderness. when our party had to break some china, al from was the donkey in the china shop we needed. [applause] >> most of all, al showed us that in the end the fickle fashions of washington don't really matter. he never cared who was up and who was down. he just woke up every day determined to keep fighting for the same principles he believed the night before. it is a rare man that can stay true to his heart for a lifetime in this town and we are forever thankful for him to it. he didn't do it alone. he couldn't have done did without you who stood by the d.l.c. the last quarter century. he couldn't have done it without the inspiration of his papers who immigrated to south bend, indiana and rayed their son to
believe -- raised their son to believe that opportunity for all is america's promise. and he certainly couldn't have done it without the woman he met in the civil rights movement and worked with on the war on poverty, the patron saint of the d.l.c., mother of jenny and sarah and love of his life, ginger from. [applause] >> as the rabbi said, al spent the last quarter century willing the democratic party back from the dead and he earned the right to spend the next quarter century of willing the cubs back to the world series. but tonight all of us pledge to honor his legacy and carry on the battle he began with a new wave of new democrats on the rise, new majorities in congress and a new president in the white house eager to forge a new politics this will remain a
place where ideas matter. the mission of the democratic party has always been to enable every generation to build a better, brighter future for the next generation that comes lo along. in the end, that is what al from has done for us. because of al from democrats are far better off than we were 24 years ago and so is our country as a result. mrau [applause] >> our party's map is bigger, our civic ethic is stronger and our children's future is brighter thanks to the great cause he has left us to carry on. now, to remind you how far we have come and how much we can still do, we will dim the lights for a video on the in krecredib adventure of hour al from changed the face of american politics. >> there are so many things we
can measure. power of the sun. the wind. electricity. sound. an engine. but how do you measure the power of an idea? it can only be measured by the lines it opens, the innovation it sparks, and the lives it can change. >> four more years. four more years. >> in 1984 ronald reagan wins 49 states. democrats are out of ideas. the new deal coalition has been split acindsinn si sundaasunder. out of the rubble a young congressional staffer named al from organizes a small group of reform-minded governors, senators and activists who decide to chart a new path.
organizing the democratic leader council to fortunately a new modern agenda and plot a small revelati refuvolution within the party bn of core views of opportunity, responsibility and community. the d.l.c. begins to build a vault of protocols to reconnect democrats to the forgotten middle class. job creation, welfare reform, a strengthened military. a tough approach to crime and a new embrace of national service. despite fierce resistance, the courageous new democratic agenda marks the beginning of a long climb back to power, resuscitating the dying party by making it once again the party of opportunity and growth. in april of 1989, al travels to arkansas to recruit the state's
young governor to assume the chairmanship of the d.l.c. together bill clinton, al and others write the new orleans declaration which lays out a bold new governing policy for the party. soon thereafter clinton delivers a peach in cleveland that -- a speech in cleveland that propels him to the forefront of politics. then he launches a presidential campaign as a different democrat. >> we offer a new choice based on old values. we offer opportunity. we demand responsibility. we will build an american community again. we are, as democrats, a revitalized democratic party. >> in november he ends 12 long years of republican rule in the white house. as a key advisor to the
campaign, the transition and the president, al becomes, in clinton's words, the conscience of the white house and bruce reed goes to the house a domestic policy advisor to the president. soon a democratic agenda becomes national policy. the 100,000 cops program not only helps produce an unprecedented drop in violent crime but puts to rest the view that democrats are soft on rhyme. a movement recommits us to patriotism and civic duty. his bold effort to end welfare is not only lifting millions out of poverty but shows that the party believes in making sure every american has the opportunity and responsibility to get ahead. clinton is propelled to an historic re-election, the first democrat to do so sense franklin
roosevelt. in his second term he accomplishes what seems impossible in the post-bush era. the passage of a balanced budget that provides the nation with the first surplus in 30 years. those successes, products of a starkly different brand of democratic politics, begin to spur change among progressives the world over, led in charge part by first lady hillary clint clinton. they begin a global dialogue with british prime minister tony blair and a host of other leaders. the third wave movement leads to an explosion of center-left governments throughout the developed world. the new democratic movement continues to emerge in the new century developing a deeper vault of new ideas and talent, a new generation of leaders climbs the mantle of reform proving
that ideas matter more than ever. >> d.n.c. leaders then all make their mark in the national spotlight. the new d.l.c. chairman harold ford jr. continues to speak out as one of the foremost. rahm emanuel leads democrats back that a majority after penning with bruce reed "the plan" in 2006. and continuing the tradition of helping leaders emerge into stars the d.l.c. found a new fellows program with an eye for the future. the quarter century after the
d.l.c. took up the challenge of bring being back the forgotten middle class barack obama's and joe biden's victory proves that the party has been reborn. the new administration and congress have a chance to build a broad lasting majority for change and reform and the opportunity to carry out a new agenda for a new era. education reform, national service, health reform, energy, fiscal responsibility and long-term growth. in the democratic leader council the organization that al from built from the ground up is taking on that new challenge. under bruce reed's leadership al's legacy lives on proofrpg once again how -- proving once again how the power of a good idea with build the party. >> 25 years ago al had the courage to see it was time for a
different democrat. today our party stronger and our country is better off because he did. ideas are worth fighting for. that is as true now as it was when the new dreamt from south bend met a new democratic from a place called hope. >> as president clinton once said, looking back at his two terms in office, it would be hard to figure the single american citizen who has a private citizen had a more positive impact on the progress of american live in the last 25 years than al from. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, former d.l.c. chair tom vilsack. [applause] >> thank you very much. i hope everybody in this audience has a great deal of
sympathy for me. i am sandwiched between a profound video about the life of al from and president bill clinton. so, i'm trying to figure out what i can say that won't be said tonight, that won't be said by the president about al from. so, let me give a shot at that. we are going to talk tonight about al's championship of ideases, his passion, his vision for a new party, his commitment to country, the sacrifices he and his family made for all of us who have public office. but there may be one voice that may not be here tonight and that may be the voice of those people in this country who are not invited to this dinner, who don't even know this dinner is taking place but whose lives have been directly impacted and affected by the work of al from. let me tell you one story of one person. since we're now focused on extending healthcare reform, it
was al and the d.l.c. and president clinton who felt it was necessary to begin that process again and that discussion by focusing on children. i will never forget the conversation i had, al, with a woman on the banks of the mississippi river several years ago. i was visiting a homeless clinic and she was there as a nurse's aide. this is the person whose live you impacted. she came up to me very hesitantly as i was talking to nurses and asked if i could spend a few minutes with her. this is when i was governor of iowa. she said i just want to thank y you. i said for with. she said i want to thank you for the children's health insurance program. she said i'm working as a nurse's aide making $8 an hour, working my way through college, no doubt with a student loan and assistance. i'm recently divorced. i have a 12-year-old daughter. and my daughter and i are living
together without much support from her father. and i was concerned and worried about her future, i was concerned and worried about her capacity to be protected because i didn't have health insurance with this job and i can't afford it at $8 an hour. but she said then the people at this clinic told me about this health insurance program for childr children. how you pay a small amount and you get insurance coverage. so, i took advantage of it, and wouldn't you know within a couple of days i got it she broke and shattered her wrist. and she broke it in multiple places and it required three surgeries. and at this point in time this woman, this wonderful woman began it cry and she said i'm convin convinced without that program my child's wrist would never have been fixed right and they would have had to live with a deformity the rest of her life. so, folks, when we honor this man tonight, there are literally
millions of children here and around the world whose lives have been directly impacted by his passion for ideas and belief that government, working with others, can make a difference in the lives of so many. so, al, she is not here tonight, but i am and on behalf of her and all of the children of this country whose lives have been affected by your work and will continue to be, i simply want to say thank you for a life well led and a commitment. [applause] >> the second part of this, apparently, you liked me so much you gave me the opportunity to introduce the president. how many times has president clinton been introduced? how much can you said about the guy that you don't already know and have heard a million times.
let me try a little something different tonight. i think one of the greatest strengths of bill clinton is his willingness and embracing and celebration of the successes of othe others. i have seen him express deep pride in the success of his daughter and of his wife. i have seen him express extraordinary pride in the successes of democratic politicians from city councilmembers and mayors and governors all the way up to presidents of the united states. i have seen him express pride in the successes of children com t combatting aids in africa. this is a man who has committed himself to separating the successes of others and, through his work, has made success for others so prominent. so, ladies and gentlemens, plea